MiracleFeet Reaches 50,000th Child with Life-Changing Treatment
When MiracleFeet partnered with its first hospital in Brazil in 2010, our founders thought treating 10,000 children worldwide with clubfoot would be an ambitious goal, a milestone possibly beyond reach. Now, a decade later MiracleFeet has reached its 50,000th patient with the Ponseti Method, the non-invasive, low-cost treatment that corrects a birth defect overlooked for generations in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).
“I don’t think any of us who were involved at the beginning ever imagined that we would reach so many kids. This is an extraordinary moment for MiracleFeet,” said Co-founder & CEO Chesca Colloredo-Mansfeld. “The speed at which this has accelerated is proof of a treatment and clinical model that works exceptionally well.”
Three-week-old Raes Mugerwa, born during the COVID-19 pandemic at a health facility south of Kampala, Uganda received his first set of casts at one of 21 clinics where MiracleFeet supports care with local partner Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services Uganda (CoRSU).
Treatment quality counts more than patient numbers
Globally, MiracleFeet works with local providers at 301 clinics in 29 countries and anticipates treating 10,000 new patients this year alone. In some countries, like Liberia, Paraguay, and Sri Lanka, MiracleFeet’s partners are reaching 70% of new cases each year. An incredible achievement, especially considering that just ten years ago only .3% of children in low-income countries were receiving proper clubfoot care.
Thanks to CAST, our all-in-one clinic, patient, and program management tool, MiracleFeet knew the 50,000th patient would enroll at a partner clinic in East Africa. We commemorated the milestone with CoRSU in Uganda to honor their early role in bringing Ponseti to children in the region, providing proof that persuaded physicians, donors, and partners worldwide that it could be replicated elsewhere.
Through the same system and organizational emphasis on data, we also know that MiracleFeet’s partners are achieving treatment quality levels that exceed the global “gold standards” for the Ponseti Method, meaning a child in Somalia is now receiving the same quality of care as a child in the United States. In fact, countries operating in the most difficult circumstances—Liberia, Somalia, Mali, and Guatemala—lead among partners on delivering quality care.
“The fact that this is happening in such different contexts speaks to the inherent scalability of the method—and the solvability of clubfoot worldwide,” said Colloredo-Mansfeld.
A radical difference
Reflections from the first physician to use Ponseti in Africa
Until the past decade, most children born with clubfoot in LMICs were not treated due to the complexity of surgery and limited access to safe services. Surgery, the popular option until the 2000s, was costly and also caused considerable issues later in life: the feet tend to become stiff and weak, often causing pain and the need for additional operations.
“These were among the most complicated procedures we learned,” said Dr. Norgrove Penny, a member of MiracleFeet’s medical advisory board, who helped revolutionize clubfoot care in LMICs when he and a small orthopedic team began using the Ponseti Method in Uganda.
Uganda became the first country in the world to address clubfoot using a public health approach and to introduce care into national health strategies starting in the early 2000s.
“Here was a technique I could implement there and make a radical difference in treating a big problem. I think all pediatric orthopedic surgeons will tell you that the Ponseti Method was nothing short of revolutionary. Had I been in North America, I would have been a slower adopter, but I had no choice in Uganda.”
The team, which included MiracleFeet East Africa Program Manager, Marieke Dreise, went from performing 150 operations per year on older children with neglected cases, to reaching more than 500 annually with casting at public health centers and hospitals. By 2002, in less than three years, they had trained 180 orthopedic officers throughout Uganda in the method.
Their work to advocate for the treatment nationally and to train hundreds of physiotherapists and orthopedic specialists throughout east and southern Africa provided a foundation for MiracleFeet and partners’ work today.
For MiracleFeet, reaching 50,000 children is a proud accomplishment, and marks a beginning, a bold new chapter in our mission to end untreated clubfoot globally, forever.